“We fumbled the ball,” President Obama said four times in a news conference about the bungled health care implementation. The rollout issues are already affecting Democrats seeking election in 2014. And he’s lucky not to be facing reelection himself: his approval ratings are the lowest since he took office. Hours after the president announced an administrative change that will allow health insurance customers to keep their current care for another year, the backlash to the proposed fix had begun, including from state regulators in his own party determined to protect consumers in their states.
The Presidential Daily Brief
In a move that reverses decades of controversial policies that have become synonymous with the Communist regime, Chinese couples will be able to have two children if at least one parent is an only child. And there will be no more “re-education through labor.” The news stems from the a four-day party leadership meeting earlier this week — the decisions were included in a full report released Friday. The family issue addresses, among other things, a basic math problem: an aging population coupled with fewer young people is an economy that doesn’t add up.
Goodbye Rob Ford – at least to his powers as mayor of Toronto. In an “unprecedented” vote, the city council passed a motion to strip the scandal-ridden leader of his ability to hire key positions, and to significantly limit his other capacities. This comes on the heels of formal appeals by councillors for the mayor to take a leave of absence or to outright resign, especially in light of recent behavior which includes admissions to smoking crack and possible drunk driving, and making cringeworthy comments about oral sex. Ford promised to fight the move in court, costing taxpayers “an arm and a leg.” The next potential move to further choke off Ford’s powers is scheduled for Monday.
At first glance, it made little sense why U.S. banking juggernaut JPMorgan Chase was paying $75,000 each month to an obscure Chinese consulting firm with only two employees. But the firm’s executive, listed as “Lily Chang,” was actually Wen Ruchun, 40, daughter of then Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Ms. Wen’s firm netted $1.8 million, and JPMorgan made lucrative inroads into the state-run railway construction group. Wall Street has a long history of recruiting “princelings” to its payroll, but this latest probe could not come at a worse time for the troubled bank, which only last month settled the London Whale case and is rumored to be near a $13 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over the sale of mortgage securities.
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest increased by 28 percent last year, the government reports. Many blame recent and ambiguous changes to the nation’s forest protection laws, with many landowners unsure about how much they are required to preserve. An agricultural boom also creates incentives for farmers to convert rainforests into farmland. The government’s goal, Brazil’s environmental minster says, “is to eliminate illegal deforestation in the Amazon.” A tall order, but for a country that has the world’s sixth-largest carbon dioxide emissions, most of which come from rainforest clearing, it’s good to aim high.
Iran slows reactor construction, freezes nuclear enrichment program. (Businessweek).
Bilingualism deters dementia by more than four years on average. (NPR).
Ming the Mollusc was the world’s oldest living creature at 507 when scientists inadvertently killed him. (Sydney Morning Herald).
Japan plans to inject more truthiness into textbooks. (Japan Times).
John Oliver is leaving ”The Daily Show” for his own talk show on HBO. (HuffPo).
A redesigned PlayStation 4 dropped today, with new social media tricks, a sleek design and upgraded chat options, but critics say a lack of primo games hampers use. Microsoft’s Xbox One lands next Friday. It’s the first big game system release for both firms in more than six years, and the first time the two companies have gone console-to-console like this. Expect these to rank high on holiday gift lists for the young and old(er).
The Red Cross has recruited an unprecedented number of digital volunteers to map out the devastating trail left by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines — a project that may save many lives. In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Red Cross began developing open-access satellite image software to get a bird’s-eye view of devastated areas. The software operates similarly to Wikipedia, and can be accessed and edited by anyone. More than 700 volunteers have used the database to identify areas hardest hit by Haiyan. Their data is forwarded to aid workers, who send relief accordingly.
English people are notoriously preoccupied with gardening — but are there enough green thumbs in the U.K. to populate a city? One charity thinks so. The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust has offered $400,000 to any ambitious urban planner with environmental sensibilities to design a new “garden city” for Britain. Garden cities, or urban spaces centered around lush parks, were many Victorians’ idea of a Utopian society. And with housing prices in British cities higher than ever before, many urbanites might not object to taking green living to a whole new level.
Scientists studying the DNA of ancient dogs are clueing into where wolves were first domesticated to become the earliest dogs. Until recently, many researchers believed the first domestication took place in China around 30,000 years ago, but recent evidence indicates that ”wolfish dogs or doggish wolves” existed in Europe as far back as 36,000 years ago. The research highlights the complexities of deciphering a species’ origins from its DNA and may help us understand how humans made friends with the only large carnivore we have ever domesticated.
New York’s prestigious Lincoln Center hosted a memorial for a native son yesterday. Lou Reed, of glam-rocking, wild-side-walking, cross-dressing, ethereal-voiced fame passed away two weeks ago after battling liver cancer. His Facebook page invited New Yorkers to a public ceremony to remember the Brooklyn-born icon. There were no speeches or live performances, just “Lou’s voice, guitar music and songs.” Rock ‘n’ roll legends and family members had already paid tribute to Reed, but New Yorkers gave him his last perfect day.
Major league baseball owners voted unanimously to fund an expanded instant replay system that should take effect next season. But there was no need to review the decisions to make Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen the league MVPs. Despite an injury-plagued year, Cabrera led the majors in hitting and finished second in home runs and RBIs. The Detroit Tigers slugger became the first American leaguer to win back-to-back awards in 20 years. McCutchen, ranked among the league leaders in hitting, runs and stolen bases, won the NL award after leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to their first winning record in 20 years and first postseason since 1992.